If you haven't yet seen a movie in the "Twilight" series, should you begin with newest release "Eclipse"? Maybe – if you believe what some critics are saying about the third film version of Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular teen vampire saga.
"It took three films, but 'The Twilight Saga' finally nails just the right tone in 'Eclipse,' " says The Hollywood Reporter. "Where the first film leaned heavily on camp and the second faltered through caution and slickness, 'Eclipse' moves confidently into the heart of the matter – a love triangle that causes a young woman to realize choices lead to consequences that cannot be reversed."
"[T]the kids are growing up," says the Los Angeles Times, referring less to the characters from the books – Bella, Edward, and Jacob – than to the actors who play them: "Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner who finally, finally have figured out how to breathe life into the characters first created by publishing phenom Stephenie Meyer."
"The 'Twilight' saga is getting better," says Baltimore Sun book blogger Nancy Knight, although she quickly qualifies her praise by adding, "Or maybe my expectations have finally been lowered enough." The acting, she complains, "hasn't gotten any better," although that didn't prevent her from finding "Eclipse" to be "far more entertaining than either of its predecessors." (I'm going to guess, however, that she's in a very slim minority in insisting that she is "totally Team Charlie," whom Knight finds to be "hands down the coolest guy in Forks." I have yet to see another commentator anywhere to skip over Edward and Jacob in favor of Bella's dad.)
The New York Times agrees that "Eclipse" "raises the level of romantic intensity considerably" and has "a bit more humor on display." Overall, says the Times review, "Eclipse" is a "more robustly entertaining film than either of its predecessors."
There are, however, also the dissenters. "Keep your shirt on," advises Claudia Puig in USA Today. " 'Eclipse' isn't that awesome." Although conceding that " 'Eclipse' is definitely the most romantic of the films," Puig predicts that while "Twilight" fans will be happy, "this third go-round won't make Twihard converts of the rest of us."
The Monitor's own critic, Peter Rainer, also remained largely unimpressed by "Eclipse." He gave the movie a grade of 'C,' summing up the appeal of the entire "Twilight" saga rather crisply by writing: “ 'Twilight' is essentially an adolescent female fantasia about coming to terms with one’s sexuality. There I’ve said it. And I’m sure no one else has ever said it."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.